Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Visit To Roanoke

Oh much for formatting...looks like everything's clipped. Maybe I'll work on it.

This is a project I undertook for my niece. She's getting married in September in nearby Boone's Mill, and she wanted to know what to do in Roanoke.

I might go back and add in my pictures at some point.

A Visit to Roanoke

Nestled in the bosom of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Roanoke, Virginia and the surrounding area offer the visitor a wide-range of lodging, dining, recreational, artistic, and eclectic activities.


· The Hotel Roanoke

She’s the grand hotel in Roanoke. Dating back to Roanoke’s frontier days in the 1880’s. She’s withstood destruction by fire and destruction by economy. She has arisen from the ashes and returned to her former glory.

· Holiday Inn Tanglewood

A solid hotel on Roanoke’s desirable Southwest side. As an added bonus, The Elephant Walk is contained within the structure and Carlos’ Brazilian restaurant is only a short drive away.

· Cambria Suites

Located beside the smoldering remains of Roanoke Victory Stadium, Roanoke’s newest hotel shines like a beacon. One of its special amenities is that it’s only a few hundred yards away from Roanoke’s impressive medical center and complex.

· Sheraton Hotel and Conference Center

The Sheraton is located at the intersection of Hershberger and I-581. It’s an impressive hotel with a really nice lobby fireplace.


· Alejandros Mexican Grill

The restaurant is truly a growing enterprise. The flagship is located in Roanoke’s downtown market area. Another satellite is located in Northwest Roanoke. People rave about their fish tacos.

· Carlos Brazilian International Cuisine

Probably Roanoke’s finest and most celebrated restaurant. The food is impeccable and the view of the valley from the western facing tables is unparalleled.

· Corned Beef and Company

Probably Roanoke’s bawdiest restaurant. Pool tables. Working fare. A jumping joint.

· Grace’s Pizza

People from around town know of Grace’s. It’s an unpretentious restaurant with excellent pizza and calzones for which to die.

· Isaacs

It’s hard to believe that Roanoke would have a fine Mediterranean restaurant, but Isaacs is that place. The food is excellent.

· Roanoke Weiner Stand

A locally famous place. They specialize in hot dogs. They are good.

· Mac and Bob’s

Salem’s flagship restaurant and meeting place. They serve Americans American food.

· Texas Tavern

Since The depression, the TT has served thousands of customers ten at a time. They don’t cash checks or play with bumblebees. They serve some of the most interesting chili you’ll ever fully experience from intake to outflow.

· Tazza

The Radjou family from India runs this lovely Indian restaurant. They care about their food and their customers.

· The Elephant Walk

Comes highly regarded and part of the Holiday Inn Tanglewood package.

· The Home Place

Ah well, what can you say. The Home Place is an old-fashioned family-style restaurant. People are seated and fed. The food is really good and greasy and fattening. They use butter. Located in downtown Catawba, population 12, this IS the finest place in the area to eat, or so many gloat.


· Froth

It’s new and it serves coffee and people like it.

· Mill Mountain Coffee and Tea

A very successful coffee house. Mill Mountain Coffee and Tea has grown to offer several locations around the valley. The coffee is great and the ambiance is laid-back.


· On the Rise Bakery

Located on the City Market Square, this bakery serves up a wide variety of tasty and finely crafted breads and pastries.

· Bread Craft

Alex’s dream was to create a true French-styled bakery. With Bread Craft, he has succeeded beyond all imagination. His sourdough creations are amazing. Hint, try to olive loaf.

· The Euro Bakery

Bari and Elizabeta Sinani, refugees from Bosnia create the most delicious breads and pastries in Roanoke. Most incredible are their bureks which are light pastry-like pies filled with spinach and cheese or beef and onions. Such delights are a rare treat on Earth. Recently they expanded to a spot at the Roanoke City Market.


· Taubman Museum

Considered by some to be Roanoke’s albatross while others view it as our great flying train, The Taubman Museum , designed by Randall Stout, is the home of a fantastic Thomas Eakin collection as well as all sorts of other art sorta stuff. One exhibit, a life-sized sculpture of King Kong, is currently plastered onto the side of the structure, complete with a biplane in his mitts.

· O.Winston Link Museum

Once upon a time, steam engines ruled the rails. Then they didn’t. But before they went away, there was O. Winston Link. This photo artist captured the era of steam and juxtaposed it against the coming storm of progress. Link’s photo’s were almost taken from Roanoke by his greedy second wife. Twice she was imprisoned for stealing his works. Yet her greatest crime, imprisoning a frail old man went unpunished.

· Vriginia Museum of Transportation

Lots and lots of locomotives. The 611-J, the most advanced steam locomotive, is the resident master of the house along with the Class A 1218. Technical talk to be sure, but the collection also has a few planes, a quirky model train Barnum and Bailey Circus lay-out, and inexplicably, a Jupiter rocket, you know, the same kind of rocket that in May 1959 was home to space monkeys, Able and Baker, as they vaulted into space and returned alive to tell the tale. They were the first space monkeys to survive a trip to space. Sadly, Able died a couple of months later from an infected brain electrode, but Miss Baker lived 27 years and is buried at the NASA complex in Huntsville, Alabama. Able’s body was preserved and you can see him any day you want at the National Air and Space Museum. You really can’t make this stuff up.


· Kirk Avenue Music Hall

Roanoke’s premiere eclectic live music venue. Out of the pavement of a cold, hard city depression, Kirk Avenue Music Hall rescued Roanoke’s music scene. Now, this fledgling musical arts center is attracting some incredible underground talent like Shawn Mullins.

· The Jefferson Center

Jefferson High School was the home of The Magicians. Then the school closed. Its shell sat abandoned for many years; water finding its way inside. Then it was rescued and turned into an incredible musical arts center. Many of today’s greatest performers have played there, including BB King and Richard Thompson.

· Roanoke Civic Center

With all the charm of a Chernobyl-style nuclear reactor, The Roanoke Civic Center from time to time has some interesting shows, from Broadway traveling circuses to Elton John.

· 202 Market

Uniquely famous after local megla-media star, River Laker, performed a striptease at a fund-raiser causing the 202 to lose its ABC license, It’s still a destination on the city market.

· Martin’s Downtown

This is where the local music scene makes its presence felt. Local bands cut their musical chops there.


· Roanoke City Market

Roanoke is blessed with a classic market square. Over the past few years, the city’s done its best to destroy it. Yet somehow, out of the ashes of discontent, irresponsibility, and corporate greed, the square has survived and has been reborn. As long as the city doesn’t renege on its lease of ten feet of public sidewalk for silent monthly Plowshares anti-war protests, peace and prosperity will reign.

· Mill Mountain Star

Without a doubt, The Mill Mountain Star is Roanoke’s claim to fame. The huge man-made star, originally lit in 1949 by a forward-thinking Chamber of Commerce has shown brightly over the Valley ever since. Back in the day, the star used to shine red whenever someone in the valley died in a traffic accident. Later, the colors were switched to red, white, and blue to honor our nation’s 200th birthday. These days, the star shines white in honor of the fallen in the 9/11 attacks.

· Mill Mountain Zoo

Mill Mountain Zoo sits atop Mill Mountain and guards our valley. Snow Leopards, red wolves and prairie dogs abound. A trip on “The Zoo Choo” is strongly recommended.

· Dr. Pepper and H&C Coffee Signs

Only in Roanoke would one of the star attractions be two neon signs from the 1940’s. Yet, there you go. Residents are mesmerized and comforted by the electronic coffee pouring from the electric pot to the glowing cup. Dr. Pepper’s 10-2-4 sign reminds us always to drink our Dr. Peppers at 10am, 2pm, and 4pm; doctor’s orders. Roanokers take such prescriptions to heart as Roanoke leads the nation in consumption of Dr. Pepper per capita.

· Mini Graceland

It’s hard to explain and even harder to understand. Over the years, Elvis’ miniature home had fallen into disrepair. In fact, it may not be there anymore. That would be a true loss.

· The Coffee Pot

All across America in the 1930’s, Coffee Pot restaurants ruled the roadsides along with giant balls of yard, giant corkscrews, giant reptile sculptures, and corn mazes. This icon is still here.

· Texas Tavern

A bowl with and a Cheesy Western. Roanoke’s Millionaire Club.

· Roanoke Weiner Stand

Hot dog! People travel from all over the world to eat these slippery dogs. One man actually flies his own Cessna in from Northern Virginia just to get a tasty dog.

· St. Andrews’ Catholic Church

Completed in 1902, St. Andrews Catholic Church lords over Roanoke City. It’s a true gothic-styled gem of a church complete with imported, stunning German stained glass windows.

· D-Day Memorial

About twenty miles from Roanoke is the sleepy city of Bedford. Bedford, VA lost more people per capita than any other place in the country on D-Day. A grand memorial has been built to honor all the fallen. The Overlord Arch is something to behold.


· Peaks of Otter

Nestled north of Roanoke along the Blue Ridge Parkway, two mountains share a space, Sharp Top and Flat Top. Sharp Top is the rock star of the two. You can take the shuttle to the top or brave the strenuous hike. At the top, you’ll be rewarded with a 360 degree view of the area from Roanoke to deep into the piedmont of Virginia. At the base of the mountains you can lodge, picnic, or dine in a pristine environment.

· Mabry Mill

Situated about an hour south along the Blue Ridge Parkway, Mabry Mill is a picturesque mill from the mountain days. You can eat some incredible pancakes at the restaurant onsite.

· Blue Ridge Parkway

This famous Depression era project rolls through The Roanoke Valley. Scenic drives can be made to the north or south.

· The Cascades

The Cascades are located near the town of Pembroke in Giles County or about 45 minutes from Roanoke along I-81 south/Rt 460West. An easy half hour hike along a bubbling stream leads to a beautiful waterfall.

· Mountain Lake

Marketed as “The Home of Dirty Dancing,” this beautiful mountaintop resort in Giles County is stunning. Yes, Patrick Swayze did some of his greatest acting there. The resort is dimmed a little since the natural lake inexplicably drained a few years ago.

· Virginia Tech

Home of the Fightin’ Gobblers, Virginia tech is one of Virginia’s largest universities. Located in Blacksburg, just 30 minutes from Roanoke along I-81 South, VT is a beautiful rural campus with stunning limestone (Hokiestone) buildings.

· The New River

Oddly, the New River is the oldest river in the world next to the Nile. Around these parts, people like to toss an inner tube in, hop on it and float the day away through Montgomery and Giles Counties.

· McAfee’s Knob

The hike that people talk about. McAfee’s Knob can be reached via the Rt 311 parking lot atop Catawba Mountain. The hike is about 4 miles each way and is quite strenuous for the last mile up to the summit. The view, however, is beyond worth the pain. You can see ridge after ridge out to the west into West Virginia. To the north and east you can see to and beyond The Peaks of Otter. To the East and South you can see the entire Roanoke Valley and beyond. McAfee’s Knob is truly a destination.

· Read Mountain

A unique and short suburban hike up a mountain. The hike is a moderate climb up an ordinary small mountain. At the top, the cliff view of the Roanoke Valley is breath-taking as you look down on the Roanoke Regional Airport.

· Dragon’s Tooth

This is a strenuous hike that begins at the Dragon’s Tooth parking area along Rt 311 just west of Catawba. The hike is about 4 miles each way and summits at a strange tooth-like formation of massive rocks. The vista on a clear day offers looks into the Roanoke Valley and beyond as well as Blacksburg to the south.

· Roanoke Valley Greenway

o Roanoke River Greenway-Roanoke City

By parking at River’s edge park in downtown Roanoke, you can either head a few miles to the east into Vinton or a few miles to the west deeper into Roanoke City. Whichever way you go, the river will be your friend.

o Roanoke River Greenway-Salem

The Roanoke River is normally gentle meanders through an industrial base. This stretch is relaxed and uniquely beautiful.

o Hanging Rock Greenway

A strange little three mile round trip. Along a cinder trail, you cover an old train route through Roanoke’s rail history. Also, you get a solid dose of Civil War history, by learning of the epic Battle of Hanging Rock.

o Lick Run Greenway

Stroll a paved path from Valley View Mall in front of the Target store all the way into the heart of downtown Roanoke. The trail offers solitude and babbling streams as well as cityscape vistas.

o Wolf Creek Greenway-Vinton

A unique hike through suburbia. The highlight is crouching and easing your way through a make-shift pedestrian tunnel under a major highway eventually ending at the Blue Ridge Parkway.